Monthly Archives: March 2014

Reading the Bible to Be Transformed – Part 2

Allowing the Bible to Read Us



What Are We in For – Pain and Time:

If we have tired of living a Christian life with little or enough transformation, the Word of God can provide it.

  • But we need to be aware of a few things.
  • (1) It is going to be painful and costly.
  • (2) It is going to require your time and intent.


(1) Pain – Allowing the Bible to read us that we might be transformed is costly and painful.



  • It will strip away the world from your identity.
  • You will be separated from what you thought was “you”.
  • You will cling to the “old self” – the flesh – and try to resist clinging to God.
  • But you need to let go!



Indeed, this is what repentance means.

  • We aren’t to simply turn from our sinful actions – that is moralism.
  • We are to turn and change direction from “me”, “old self” and “flesh” to our new identity in Christ.
  • We are no longer on the throne.


We see this distinction with Paul.

  • Acts 26:20 (ESV) — 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.
  • Notice – the deeds come after the repentance!
  • The turning to God – the dethroning of “self” from a regenerated heart – comes first and the deeds follow.
  • Never mistake repentance for just an outward change of behavior.


Rosaria Butterfield puts it like this:

“I learned the first rule of repentance: that repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin. How much greater? About the size of a mustard seed. Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus, no matter what. And sometimes we all have to crawl there on our hands and knees. Repentance is an intimate affair. And for many of us, intimacy with anything is a terrifying prospect.”


In fact, Rosaria, in her conversion from lesbian-professor-activist lost everything she thought was she.

  • She lost her job, her house, her lover, her friends, etc.
  • “Murphy licked my face again and I laughed out loud. This was my conversion in a nutshell: I lost everything but the dog” – Rosaria Butterfield.


Scriptural Examples of Cost of Transformation:

Acts 9:8–9 (ESV) — 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.


Paul’s conversion and transformation cost him much.

  • He was physically stricken with blindness for three days.
  • And he lost his identity as the “Pharisee of Pharisees” and persecutor of Christians.
  • He had to come to terms with the fact that his worldview was wrong.


2 Kings 5:9–14 (ESV) — 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.


Naaman, encountering the “word of the prophet” had a choice to make – himself or the truth of God’s word.

  • At first, he justified his rebellion – “come out to me”.
  • He expected to be healed on his terms.
    • Leaving himself on “his throne”.
  • After all, he was Naaman and he had “the rivers of Damascus“.


But God doesn’t transform us on our terms!

  • Our terms are to try and stay on our thrown and “will-power” our way to spiritual growth.
  • This is wrong, wrong, wrong!


Naaman had to go “down” in to the second rate “waters of Israel”.

  • He had to “get off his throne”.
  • He had his idea of what it meant to be healed, and his idea was wrong.
  • He had to give it up.


BTW – Don’t be fooled into thinking that the cost of transformation is paid up front at your conversion.

  • This would be a huge mistake; and something the Bible simply does not affirm.
  • The costly grace of Christ is one and done at the cross, but the believer has to surrender daily; there is no coasting.


But wait…there is more cost to be paid for transformation.


(2) Time – Allowing the Bible to read us that we might be transformed also requires time and intent.


“The transforming power of God is available to every Christian. But the transformed life does not come by accident or chance” – M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.

  • It is both something we have to “allow and submit to” – Mulholland.


Again, Rosaria Butterfield says this:

“Living according to God’s standards is an acquired taste. We develop a taste for godly living only by intentionally putting into place practices that equip us to live below our means. We develop a taste for God’s standards only by disciplining our minds, hands, money, and time. In God’s economy, what we love we will discipline.”

  • The gold buried in the backyard example – again.


The Psalmist puts it like this:

  • Psalm 119:9–11 (ESV) — 9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.


All of these things:

  • “Putting into place practices”
  • “Developing a taste for God’s standards”
  • “Disciplining our minds, hands, money, time”
  • Seeking God with your “whole heart
  • Storing up God’s HSTP (Holy Spirit Truth Powered) “word in your heart


They do not happen by osmosis.

  • You must posture your entire life toward the HSTP word of God.
  • To understand God’s word you must stand under it.
  • There is simply no other way around it.
  • God transforms by his HSTP word.


So to be transformed by the HSTP word of God will require surrender.

  • (1) You must give up who you are for who you are in Christ – very painful and costly.
    • As Joshua put it, we are to Cling to God.
  • (2) You must surrender your time and intent to God.
    • Intent without the investment of time and effort is simply not enough.


Next week we will deal with Hebrews 4:12-13 to discover:

  • (1) What God’s HSTP word does to us.
  • (2) And how that transforms us.



Reading the Bible to be Transformed – Part 1

Allowing the Bible to Read Us


Growing or Receding:

The believer is always in motion.

  • He is either growing in his likeness to Christ – renewing the mind, right thinking, sin fighting, contentment, loving one’s neighbor, speaking the Gospel, etc.
  • Or, he is receding from Christ in likeness to the world – self, self, self, me, me, and me.


Robert Mulholland says this:

“We are being shaped either toward the wholeness of the image of Christ or toward a horribly destructive caricature of that image” – M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.


A Christian’s life is to be characterized by the “growing” and not the “receding”.

  • Because of this, we need to realize a fundamental truth in the Christian life –
  • Foundational to “growing” in Christ and not “receding” into the world is…
    • The Holy Spirit Truth Powered Word of God – HSTP



(1) Holy Spirit Powered Word


Scripture speaks much of the connection between the Spirit and God’s word.

  • John 6:63 (ESV) — 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
  • Ephesians 6:17 (ESV) — 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:5a (ESV) — 5a because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.


Paul elaborates just how “Holy Spirit Powered” God’s word is:

  • 1 Corinthians 2:9–14 (ESV) — 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.


There are some profound truths in this passage.

  • Paul speaks about an entire body of knowledge – “the thoughts of God” – that is understood only through the Spirit of God.
  • And this body of knowledge was imparted “in words not taught by human wisdom”.


These words are contained in the Bible.

  • We need to consider the implications of this truth from God’s word about God’s word.


Knowledge Stool – Rabbit Trail:

In the World, knowledge of the world/truth comes from two epistemologies (usually working together).

  • (1) Empiricism – knowledge of the world/truth is apprehended by the senses – sight, touch, feel, smell, taste.
    • 5 degrees is cold.
    • An outhouse stinks.
    • Sandpaper is rough.
  • (2) Rationalism – knowledge of the world/truth is apprehended by reason and logic.
    • 2+2=4
    • I can’t be both physically in Utah and VA at the same time.
    • Whatever begins to exist has a cause.


But, Paul is telling us that these two aren’t enough – the stool is faulty; it will topple over.

  • There is a third leg on the stool only available to the Christian.
  • “The gospel, the wisdom of God, is beyond the reach of empiricism (“no eye has seen, no ear has heard”) and rationalism (“no mind has conceived”) – John Jefferson Davis.

“The things of physical sense are known by the physical senses; the things of logic and mathematics are known by logic and mathematics; but the things that are ontologically spirit (the mind of God, words of God, the content of the gospel) must be known by the Spirit (“God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” [vs. 10])” – John Jefferson Davis.


This is deep stuff.

  • Only the Christian can sit on the stool.
  • Only the Christian has access to every body of knowledge.
  • Only the Christian has access to the only body of knowledge that won’t pass away.
  • Only the Christian can know and be transformed by the “thoughts of God”.


Conversely, this means that there are “real” and “true” things that empiricism and rationalism cannot apprehend and know.

  • Access to these “real” and “true” things is “made possible by a uniquely Christian epistemology” – John Jefferson Davis.
    • A “logopneumatic” (Word and Spirit) epistemology – John Jefferson Davis.


(2) Truth Powered Word

  • Along with being a Holy Spirit powered word, God’s word is also Truth powered.
  • Jesus says so clearly in His high priestly prayer.
  • John 17:17 (ESV) — 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.


God’s word makes this connection over and over.

  • Psalm 119:160 (ESV) — 160 The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
  • Psalm 19:7–9 (ESV) — 7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.


Reason is Required – Rabbit Trail:

And yet, the HSTP Word must comprehended by the believer – it must be understood – to bring to bear all the power it has as the truth.

  • The necessity of the regenerated heart – stone to flesh – to engage with God’s word is heartily affirmed.
  • One’s heart must be inclined to receive and obey God’s word.
    • The heart and mind are intimately linked.
    • But, of course, even this truth can’t be known without engagement of the mind.


Yet, Scripture makes clear that the reasoning powers of the mind are part of the process.

  • Isaiah 1:18 (ESV) — 18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
  • This text is literally saying, “let us debate our case in court” – TWOT.
  • This is, among many things, a call to understand what takes place in God’s law court with our sin.
    • Something that requires understanding and contemplation.


Scripture emphasizes this necessity:

  • 2 Peter 3:18 (ESV) — 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
  • Genesis 3:1 (ESV) — 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
  • 2 Timothy 2:7 (ESV) — 7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
  • Proverbs 4:20 (ESV) — 20 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.
  • 2 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) — 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.


The Christian faith, then, is a “reasoned” faith.

  • Because it is truth, its power comes from apprehension of the truth.
  • Therefore, our “growing” in the likeness of Christ is “predicated on an accurate understanding of and response to such revelation” – Andreas Kostenberger.


This is easily demonstrated with a quick look at the ministry of Jesus.

  • John 6 shows thousands of people apparently immersed in the presence of Jesus.
  • They followed Him.
  • They ate with Him.
  • They learned from Him.
  • And, yet, they didn’t comprehend Him.
    • Again – heart and mind.
    • As a result, His Truth had no lasting power for them.
    • They were hungry the next day.


In fact, Jesus later quotes Isaiah to make this very point.

  • John 12:38–40 (ESV) — 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”
  • John 12:48 (ESV) — 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.


So What:

Christ’s words in John 17:17 also tell us that God “sets us apart”, “sanctifies us”, “devotes us” to Himself through His HSTP word.

So, “In practical terms, no-one can be ‘sanctified’ or set apart for the Lord’s use without learning to think God’s thoughts after him, without learning to live in conformity with the ‘word’ he has graciously given” – D.A. Carson.


We are not sanctified by our thoughts.

  • We are not sanctified by our feelings.


We are only sanctified, set apart, and “growing” in our likeness to God by understanding, comprehending and grasping God’s HSTP word.

  • Isaiah 55:8 (ESV) — 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
  • His thoughts and ways are found only in His HSTP Word.


The practical implication of God using His HSTP Word to “grow” us and set us apart for Himself is this:

  • “When we ask, ‘How can I obtain and keep…joy?’ or ‘How can I be holy?’…the answer is always, ‘Through a study of the Bible and the application of its truths to daily life” – James Boice.
  • There are no shortcuts!


The Problem:

We are depriving ourselves of joy and holiness – receding from Christ – by neglecting God’s HSTP Word.

  • We “engage in considerable religious activity” without much transformation – John Jefferson Davis.
  • Instead of being transformed more and more into the image of Christ and having victory over sin, we are being disappointed, tired out and left wanting more.


Many of us “take up the Bible and read its words, then walk away unchanged, uninspired, and uncertain” – Joel Green.

  • We read the Bible; we study the Bible; we have devotions; we hear sermons; we go to Bible study – but still…not much transformation.



“Most of us have woken too early, dressed in too little light, and found our blouse or shirt out of alignment: buttons in the wrong buttonholes. We did everything right, used good technique, placed each button carefully into and through the hole provided, but we started in the wrong place and therefore achieved an unwanted result” – Joel Green.


We are starting in the wrong place.

  • We think we are going about the Bible correctly.
  • But we are reading the Bible in the dark.


How do we know this is happening?

  • Sit down and have an honest talk with a believer.
  • “Why hasn’t God fixed me?”
  • “Why do I lack contentment?”
  • “Why don’t I love others?”
  • “Why am I still struggling with sin X?”
  • “I believe what Christ has done, but I don’t know what difference it has made for me”.
    • Except, “I am saved and going to heaven”.


The typical posture towards Scripture that accompanies these sentiments is –

  • We come to the Bible and mold it to our purposes.
  • We treat the text as a “meet my needs” dispenser.
  • “I feel like ‘x’ so I need to read ‘verse y’ to make me feel better”.
  • “Our general mode of reading is to perceive the text as an object ‘out there’ over which we have control” – M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.


We Need to Learn to Let the Bible Read Us:

The thing we are missing is this –

  • We may have learned to read the Bible, but we have not learned how to let it read us.
  • The Bible is not the only thing to be grasped and used, we are.
  • Lacking this in our Bible reading, “cannot sustain the people of God” – Joel Green.
  • We have to turn the lights on and reevaluate our view of God’s words.
  • It is time to get out of the dark.


Are we up for this reevaluation?

  • The Barna Group has discovered that most of us participate in a “cut-and-paste spirituality, embracing an unpredictable and contradictory body of beliefs, with feelings and emotions…more significant than” God’s word – John Jefferson Davis.
  • And a Biblical Literacy and Spiritual Growth Study showed that only one in ten evangelicals spend more than thirty minutes at a time in Scripture – John Jefferson Davis.
    • BTW – Time is not enough!


These dispositions toward God’s Word leave the Church with a big mess.

“People today are very much looking for religion to meet their needs. And this is not just in terms of internal feelings, but also peer approval and mystical coincidences. They expect God to give them happy feelings. They expect God to give them peer approval. They expect God to make every crazy unBiblical, unwise selfish plan they invent ‘work out’ by miracle. They feel very constrained by planning and moral boundaries, believing in a ‘God of love’ who is primarily concerned with their desires and feelings, not with rules and duties” – Wintery Knight.


Letting the Bible read us requires that we reevaluate our posture towards Scripture.

  • Are we “standing under” Scripture or “standing over” it? – Joel Green
  • Are we “ready to embrace the God to whom and the theological vision to which these writers bear witness?” – Joel Green.
  • Are we willing to sacrifice and give up what is required of us to allow the HSTP Word of God to transform us into the likeness of Christ?


Joshua 23 & 24 – Joshua’s Farewell Discourse – Part 3

“Trauma of Holiness and God’s Faithful Word”



Last week we covered three more themes from Joshua 23 and 24.

  • In so doing, we encountered two significant ideas –
    • Abraham as a new creation metaphor
    • The “Beyond the River” concept


Today we finish both the final two themes of Joshua’s Farwell Discourse and the book of Joshua.

  • The Depravity of Humanity
  • God’s Covenant Faithfulness





Joshua 24:19–20 (ESV) — 19 But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.”


The Israelites had just affirmed in verses 16-18 all that Joshua had declared.

  • “One could hardly have asked for a more gratifying and orthodox response than what Joshua received from Israel in verses 16–18” – Dale Davis.
    • We won’t “forsake the Lord”
    • We won’t “serve other gods”
    • Because we know what God has done on our behalf.


Given this affirmation, Joshua’s follow up comes as quite a shock – “a deep paradox” (David Howard).

  • This has got to be one of the biggest “buts” in Scripture!


But…you are not able to serve the Lord” (vs. 19).

  • And the reason – “He is a holy God” (vs. 19).


The words of Joshua demand to be unpacked a bit.

  • It is not an exaggeration to say that the shock waves of this “J-Bomb” reverberated through 1400 years of Israelite history.


His statement says loads about:

  • (1) Who God is.
  • (2) Who the Israelites are.


His statement also raises some very important questions about the law – Sinai.

  • If a holy God can’t be served and His Holy law obeyed then –
  • (3) What is the point of the law?
    • We have covered Calvin’s (3) uses of the law some weeks ago.


We will explore all three.


(1) Who God Is – He Is a Holy God:

What does it mean to say that God is holy?

  • We can’t begin to address this here – books must be read to begin to appreciate what this means.
  • However, we will use a simple definition from R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God.


Holiness –

“When the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be “other,” to be different in a special way” – R.C. Sproul.


How significant is the holiness of God?

  • Only once in “Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree” – R.C. Sproul.
  • Isaiah 6:3 (ESV) — 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
  • Luke 1:49 states that God’s name his holy, “holy is his name”.


Trauma of Holiness (Sproul):

A good way to understand God’s holiness is to understand what it does to His creatures.

“When we are aware of the presence of God, we become most aware of ourselves as creatures. When we meet the Absolute, we know immediately that we are not absolute. When we meet the Infinite, we become acutely conscious that we are finite. When we meet the Eternal, we know we are temporal. To meet God is a powerful study in contrasts” – R. C. Sproul.


An example of this is Isaiah’s encounter with God’s holiness in Isaiah 6:

  • Isaiah 6:5 (1901 ASV) — 5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts.
  • How does Isaiah know he is “undone”?


God’s holiness had a certain effect on Isaiah.

  • “To be undone means to come apart at the seams, to be unraveled. What Isaiah was expressing is what modern psychologists describe as the experience of personal disintegration” – R. C. Sproul.
  • Isaiah was no longer whole.


It was because of the holiness that disintegrates that Joshua said the Israelites would be unable to serve God.

  • And yet, Isaiah was able to serve God.
    • “Here I am Lord, send me.”
    • How do we account for this?


(2) Who the Israelites Are – Not Able to Serve the Lord:

First we need to do some quick background.

  • Joshua was not the only one making this claim.


Joshua was not alone:

God said –

  • Deuteronomy 31:16 (ESV) — 16 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them.
  • Deuteronomy 31:20 (ESV) — 20 For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant.
  • Deuteronomy 31:21b (ESV) — 21b For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give.”


Moses said –

  • Deuteronomy 31:27 (ESV) — 27 For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Behold, even today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord. How much more after my death!
  • Deuteronomy 31:29 (ESV) — 29 For I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly and turn aside from the way that I have commanded you. And in the days to come evil will befall you, because you will do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger through the work of your hands.”



So why was a prophet like Isaiah able to serve a holy God, but the Israelites apparently could not?

  • God, Moses and Joshua seem clear that Israel is unable to.
  • Yet Isaiah is part of Israel.
  • Is this a contradiction?


The answer has to do with a right response to God’s holiness.

  • A theme we talked about a couple of weeks ago.


Isaiah fell to his knees and cried out “woe is me!”.

  • I am a man of unclean lips.


The Israelites, on the other hand, said to Joshua, “We got this”.

  • But worse than that, even as Israel agreed with Joshua about the call to be holy and obedient, they did so as idolators.
  • Joshua 24:14 (1901 ASV) — 14 Now therefore fear Jehovah, and serve him in sincerity and in truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt; and serve ye Jehovah.


Do you see the difference between Isaiah’s response to God’s holiness and Israel’s?


It is this fact that led Joshua to say:

  • Joshua 24:19–20 (ESV) — 19b He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.”


So what we have is not a contradiction, but simple math.

  • Holiness of God + Israel’s carelessness and idolatry = judgment.
  • Holiness of God + Isaiah’s brokenness/repentance = forgiveness


BTW – The forgiven, because of their “connectedness” to the judged, also suffer exile, famine, drought, etc.

  • The Isaiah’s of the OT are not exempt from God’s dealing with the body of Israel.
  • They are part of that body.


All of this leads us to our third sub-point of Joshua’s “But”.

  • Why did God, Moses and Joshua continue delivering the law and expect obedience?


(3) Why the Law:

We raised the question earlier.

  • Why demand obedience from the Israelites when everybody knew…
    • (1) They couldn’t obey.
    • (2) God was holy and they couldn’t measure up.


The answer to this question has already been given.

  • We saw the answer with Isaiah and the trauma of God’s holiness.
  • Isaiah 6:5 (1901 ASV) — 5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts.


God’s law is an expression of His holiness.

  • Its purpose is to undo us and disintegrate us.
  • Its purpose is to drive us to our knees in acknowledgment of the facts.
    • One such fact – We are creation; God is Creator.
    • “Here I am, send me” in broken and repentant humility is the purpose of the law.
      • Not the careless yes from a bunch of idolators.


Paul Also Answers this Question:

Paul puts the reason for the law as follows:

  • Galatians 3:19a, 24–27 (ESV) — 19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made… 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.


In other words:

  • “The law of God is the mirror of true righteousness [holiness]. When we set our works before this mirror, the reflection in it tells us of our imperfections” – R. C. Sproul.
  • And the guardian, the tutor, the mirror of the law (God’s holiness) reveals our need to look outside of creation for a solution.
  • And from the beginning that solution was God in Jesus Christ.
    • The Serpent Crusher
    • The Promised Seed


And this is a perfect segue to our final theme.





Joshua 23:14 (ESV) — 14 “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.


Joshua’s endorsement, just before his death, of God’s faithfulness is both inspiring and uplifting.

  • Remember, the early Israelites had a much different view of life after death.
  • They didn’t say things like – “I’m going to heaven”.
  • And yet Joshua praises God for all He has done.
    • not one word has failed
    • All have come to pass
    • not one of them has failed


We can go a couple of ways at this point.

  • We could review the fulfilled promises.
  • Or, we could examine the means that God used to express His covenant faithfulness.
  • We will do the latter.


Dabar of God:

Joshua previously cited all the work God had done on behalf of the Israelites.

  • All of which were promise fulfillments.
  • But here he hones in on the “thing” that conveys God’s “CF”.
  • The “dabar” of God.


It is strange that some translations of verse 14 actually leave out or gloss over this Hebrew word in their English translations (yet another reason to read multiple translations).

  • NLT – “one” (left out “word” or “thing”)
  • NIV – “one” (left out “word” or “thing”)
  • NASB – “one of them” (“word” as “them”)
  • YLT – “one thing” (“word” as “thing”)
  • ASV – “one thing” (“word” as “thing”)


So why go with “word” and not “thing” in verse 14?

  • There are two reasons.


(1) God’s promises didn’t come to Israel in “things” or “ones”.

  • God’s promises came to Israel in “words”.
  • Joshua is referring to the promises of the covenant – the words – not the “thing” of the covenant act itself (the victory over the Canaanites, for example).


(2) Importantly, the LXX translates “dabar” in verse 14 as…“logos”.

  • “Dābār” is the OT’s “logos”.


Significance of Dabar:

The importance of what Joshua is saying here can’t be overlooked.

  • God’s promises, His covenant, His “things” are all communicated with His words.
  • And as John makes so clear in John 1, this was never more true than in Jesus Christ –  the Word of God.
  • It is God’s Word that is the ultimate expression of His covenant faithfulness.


For this reason, the TWOT calls the use of the word dabar “a most important declaration”.

  • It is used about 400 times to communicate God’s “CF” to His creatures.


Some Examples:

  • Psalm 33:4 (ESV) — 4 For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.
  • Psalm 119:89 (ESV) — 89 Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.
  • Psalm 119:105 (ESV) — 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
  • Psalm 119:160 (ESV) — 160 The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
  • Isaiah 55:11 (ESV) — 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
  • Jeremiah 23:29 (ESV) — 29 Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?
  • Jeremiah 15:16 (ESV) — 16 Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.


How is it that we can fully encounter the “fire”, “hammer”, “joy and the delight”, the “truth”, the “light”, the certainty, and the “faithfulness” of God’s dabar/logos in our lives?

  • Stay tuned.



Joshua 23 & 24 – Joshua’s Farewell Discourse – Part 2

“A New Creation and Beyond the River”


Introduction to Part 2:

Joshua 24:1 (ESV) — 1 Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God.


Many scholars speculate that Joshua 23 took place at Shiloh.

  • Joshua 24 obviously took place at Shechem.
  • This means, of course, that some time elapsed between 23 and 24 to allow for travel.


But why move from Shiloh (the new home of the Tabernacle) to Shechem?

  • The answer has to do with covenant.
  • Shechem was where God covenanted with Abraham.
  • Shechem is where the Israelites previously renewed their covenant with God.
  • And our text today has another such covenant renewal ceremony.


We will contend with this covenant renewal as we continue to cover the prevalent themes of Joshua’s Farewell Discourse.


Last week we discussed three:

  • (1) The Conquest is the Lord’s
  • (2) Exhortation to Remain Faithful
  • (3) Consequences for Unfaithfulness


Today we deal with:

  • (4) Work of God in History
  • (5) Covenant Renewal


Next week we will finish with:

  • (6) Depravity of Israel
  • (7) God’s Covenant Faithfulness





A large chunk of text, Joshua 24:2-13, is dedicated to extolling the work of God on Israel’s behalf.

  • Joshua begins by declaring, “Thus says the Lord” (vs. 2).
  • He then proceeds to use God’s words to detail God’s work.


What God says – a summary:

  • Long ago…beyond the Euphrates…Abraham…served other gods” (vs. 2)
  • Then I took…Abraham from beyond the River…and led him to Canaan” (vs. 3)
  • I made his offspring many” (vs. 3)
    • Isaac…Jacob…Esau” (vs. 4)
    • Jacob went to Egypt” (vs. 4)
    • I sent Moses and Aaron” (vs. 5)
    • I plagued Egypt” (vs. 5)
    • I brought you out…to the sea…and the Egyptians pursued” (vs. 5 & 6)
    • I made the sea come upon them…you saw it” (vs. 7)
    • Then you lived in the wilderness a long time” (vs. 7)
    • I destroyed the Amorites and gave you the land east of the Jordan” (vs. 8)
    • I delivered you from the Balaam’s curse” (vs. 10)
    • And then You went over the Jordan” (vs. 11)
    • I gave the Canaanites into your hand…it was not by your sword or bow” (vs. 11)
    • I gave you the Promised Land – land you didn’t prepare, cities you didn’t build, vineyards and orchards you did not plant” (vs. 13)



These words are far more than a simple historical rehash of the work of God.

  • They reveal God’s continued disposition of Grace toward His creation.
  • His unwavering intent to redeem Creation.
  • His work to put all things right.


Joshua’s discourse here is also at least two other things.

  • (1) A “Creation Story”
  • (2) A Right Response


(1) A “Creation Story”:

The phrase “long ago” literally means “out of”/“from” “the world”/“eternity” – TWOT.

  • It seems to me to hint at a “creation story”.


How so?

  • Creation 1 – In the beginning – Adam and Eve called out (“the Lord God formed the man”)
  • Creation 2 – The Flood – Noah called out (“God remembered Noah”)
  • Creation 3 – Tower of Babel event – Abraham called out (“God took Abraham from beyond the River”)


Abraham’s calling was a seminal event in God’s redemptive history.

  • Abraham was no accident.
  • God chose him, called him, took him and covenanted with him.
    • Even in the midst of his idolatry – “they served other gods” (vs. 2)


He was a planned part of God’s redemptive history.

  • He was always to be part of God’s people and God’s future.
  • The trajectory of Abraham’s story was always to be through his sons, through Egypt, through the Promised Land, through Joshua, and through the nation of Israel.


Joshua’s discourse in Joshua 24 connects Israel to this “creation” of Abraham.

  • To the seminal event of taking Abraham “from beyond the River” – order from chaos.


And by doing this:

  • It connects Israel to God’s purposes.
  • It connects the Israelites to the Promised Land.
  • It connects the Israelites to God’s redemptive history.
  • God is doing something and they are part of it.


What an awesome thing to be a part of!


BTW – We must not forget that Christ is in each of these creation stories – including Abraham’s.

  • Creation 1 – Christ the Serpent Crusher
  • Creation 2 – Christ the Target of the bow
    • It would always be by God’s bow (and God’s Son) – “not by your sword or bow” (vs. 11).
    • Creation 3 – Christ the Promised Seed


(2) A Right Response:

Joshua’s words are a right response to Israel’s inclusion in God’s redemptive history.

  • This response has two angles two it.


1) The first angle is a basic but necessary admission that God is the Agent of creation and redemption:

  • God Spoke
  • God Decreed
  • God Called
  • God Chose
  • God Covenanted
  • God Fought


Or, as the Eastern Tribes put it Joshua 22:20:

  • The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God the Lord!” (vs. 20).
  • “El, Elohim, Yhwh! El, Elohim, Yhwh!”.


2) The second angle is that a right response to God involves doxology.

  • Doxology is worship, praise and gratitude.
  • Praise for what God has done.
  • Praise for His words, decrees, call, choosing and covenant.
  • Praise for being connected to God’s purposes in the past and going forward.
  • Praise for being part of Abraham’s “creation story”.
  • Joshua is worshipping God.


But going forward in God’s purposes requires an additional right response.

  • As Joshua has taught us, we are not our own anymore.
  • We must submit to God and His purposes and work.
  • This is done with obedience!





Joshua 24:14–15 (ESV) — 14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”


Joshua’s Challenge:

Joshua issues a challenge to the Israelites – “Now therefore” and “Choose this day”.

  • In response to God’s work on their behalf, praise isn’t enough; they must obey him.
  • Joshua is calling them to covenant faithfulness.
  • Fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness” (vs. 15)


David Howard describes the significance of this challenge:

“The choice laid out here for Israel was a breathtaking one. The language about choice is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament. Normally, God was the one who did the choosing, having chosen Israel from among the nations to be his people (see, e.g., Deut 4:37; 7:6–7; 10:15; 14:2). But now, Israel was being asked to choose its loyalties, something the pagan nations did not have to do because they could embrace all the gods” – David Howard.



What does “Fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness” look like?

  • Put away the gods served beyond the River” and “the gods of the Amorites” (vs. 14 & 15)
  • The Israelites are committing idolatry in the Promised Land.
    • Not the response God and His work deserve.
    • A right response, in addition to worship, is to reject idolatry and follow after Yahweh in obedience.


Worship is not just a physical act of acknowledgment:

  • John 4:24 (ESV) — 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
  • Romans 12:1 (ESV) — 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.


Beyond the River:

Joshua’s use of the language, “beyond the River”, is no accident.

  • Remember – Abraham was taken from “beyond the River”! (vs. 3)
  • Abraham “served other gods” beyond the River.


Why is this significant?

  • The things from “beyond the River” are to be left behind – they are “old creation”.
  • As we just saw, bringing Abraham out was a “new creation”.
  • Israel has been called out of “beyond the River”.


God’s redemptive history has brought them from “beyond the River”.

  • To worship Him
  • To obey Him


Joshua even repeats this in verse 15.

  • Don’t serve “the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River” (vs. 15).


There is one more reason why this “beyond the River” language is significant.

  • Where is it that a disobedient Israel is exiled?
  • The Assyrians and the Babylonians take them “beyond the River”.


Joshua’s Choice:

Joshua has made his choice – “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (vs. 15).

  • Joshua expresses his choice to be covenant faithful.
    • To refrain from spiritual adultery.
    • He expresses his desire to be caught up in God’s redemptive history.
      • God’s putting things right.
      • He does not want what is “beyond the River”.


Israel says they don’t either.


Israel’s Answer:

Israel answered Joshua’s challenge.

  • Joshua 24:21–28 (ESV) — 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord.” 22 Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23 He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24 And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.” 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place statutes and rules for them at Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord that he spoke to us. Therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.” 28 So Joshua sent the people away, every man to his inheritance.


What do the Israelites say?

  • We will serve the Lord” (vs. 21)
  • We are witnesses” against ourselves (vs. 22)
  • The Lord our God we well serve, and his voice we will obey” (vs. 24)


Following in their fathers’ footprints at Sinai, they affirmed the Covenant of Works with God.

  • Again, Moses makes clear in Deuteronomy that this covenant is conditional.
  • If they obey – blessings.
  • If they disobey – curses.


Joshua then seals the deal and pronounces some ominous words:

  • “The covenant was sealed by (1) the recording of the words in a book and (2) the setting up of a stone as a “witness” to it” – David Howard.
  • And with that Joshua says the stone “shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God”.


As we saw last week in Judges, the implications of Joshua’s words are soon brought to bear.

  • The Israelites “…soon demonstrated that theirs was indeed a shallow, superficial faith” – David Howard.


We will cover Joshua’s final words next week when we cover the depravity of Israel and God’s Covenant Faithfulness.



Joshua 23 & 24 – Joshua’s Farewell Discourse – Part 1


The final two chapters contain Joshua’s farewell discourses to the Israelites and their leaders.

  • “The fact that Joshua gave such speeches to the nation places him on a level with Moses as God’s anointed leader over the nation…” – David Howard.
  • The concern expressed in Joshua 1 about Joshua’s leadership, is again, put to rest.
  • Israel saw Joshua as appointed by God.


Time Frame:

Speculatively, James Boice suggests this discourse took place many years after chapter 22.

  • Joshua was about 40 when he came out of Egypt (“according to Josephus” – Boice).
  • He spent 40 years wandering.
  • He spent about 7 years in the Conquest.
  • This puts his age at the end of the Conquest (chapter 22) at about 87.
  • Assuming his farewell discourse was given before he died, at 110 (24:29), that puts the events of chapters 23 and 24 twenty+ years after chapter 22.


The main point here is that much time had probably passed.

  • New habits and patterns of behavior were beginning to take hold.
  • The powerful working of God in the Conquest was in the past.
  • The highs and lows of Conquest had given way to the cumbersome routine of life.
  • Problems were beginning to present themselves (as we will see in the speeches).


In this context, Joshua gave his final words in chapters 23 and 24.

  • He issued challenges and warnings.
  • He looked to the past and to the future.
  • He condemned idols and praised Yahweh.


Where We Are Going:

Instead of verse-by-verse, we will tackle these two chapters thematically.

  • (1) The Conquest is the Lord’s
  • (2) Exhortation to Remain Faithful
  • (3) Consequences for Unfaithfulness
  • (4) Work of God in History
  • (5) Covenant Renewal
  • (6) Depravity of Israel
  • (7) God’s Covenant Faithfulness





Joshua 23:3 (ESV) — 3 And you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the Lord your God who has fought for you.

Joshua 23:9 (ESV) — 9 For the Lord has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day.

Joshua 23:10 (ESV) — 10 One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, just as he promised you.


Joshua emphasizes that the Conquest itself is evidence of God’s working on Israel’s behalf.

  • The reasons he gives seem to be grounded on the strong nation vs. the nation of slaves motif.
  • How is it a nation of oppressed slaves – not warriors – could have taken the Promised Land?
  • How is it that a nation of slaves could have defeated the “strong nations” of all the “ites”?
  • How is it that Canaanite warriors are unable to “stand before you this day”?
  • How is it that one Israelite “puts to flight a thousand” Canaanites?
  • The answer, of course, is “the Lord your God has done” (vs. 3).


Promise Fulfillment:

Joshua also emphasizes the reason why God would do such a thing.

  • God was doing “just as he promised you” (vs. 10, vs. 15).
  • God was fulfilling a promise made to Moses and later, Joshua.
  • This promise was made at Sinai – Exodus 23:20-33.


And there are a million other reasons in the grand scheme of His redemptive history to deliver the Promise Land!


Not God Alone:

Joshua didn’t mean that the Conquest would be won unconditionally because God is going to take care of everything.

  • He is not saying we are good because “it is in the Lord’s hands”.
  • The Israelites had to take it.
  • They had to fight.
  • They had to strategize.
  • They had to use discernment.
  • They had to make wise choices.
  • They had to be obedient.


Had they continually failed on these fronts, they – their generation – would not have inherited the Promise Land.

  • This also means, of course, that they could lose the Promised Land.
  • And this leads us to the second theme.





Joshua 23:6-8 (ESV) — 6 Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, 7 that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, 8 but you shall cling to the Lord your God just as you have done to this day.

Joshua 23:11 (ESV) — 11 Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.


In love, Joshua exhorts the Israelites to remain faithful to God.

  • There are temptations are plentiful – idolatry and intermarriage.


The faithfulness he is speaking of is obedience to the Sinai Covenant.

  • Though certainly, they were to trust in Yahweh in a salvific sense as well.
  • Sinai was the conditional covenant that Israel swore itself to uphold to receive blessings – people, nation, land – from God.
  • To receive these blessings instead of curses required obedience.


Covenant at Sinai – Background:

The Sinai Covenant began as follows:

  • Exodus 19:3–6 (ESV) — 3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”


After the terms of the Sinai Covenant were pronounced to Israel, they responded:

  • Exodus 24:3 (ESV) — 3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
  • All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.
  • The Sinai Covenant was sealed between Yahweh and Israel.


The Sinai Covenant had to be fulfilled – perfectly.

  • God had to remain faithful – and He did.
  • The people of Israel had to remain faithful – and they didn’t.


Covenant of Grace:

The need for fulfillment would be where Sinai and Grace would come together in Jesus Christ!

  • Galatians 3:11 & 13–14 (ESV) — 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” AND 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
  • Galatians 3:16–17 (ESV) — 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.


So Sinai is not the Covenant of Grace made with Abraham.

  • They are separate covenants.


As we saw in Galatians, the covenant with Abraham involved the following:

  • Trust = righteousness
  • The promised seed = Jesus Christ


Importantly, the Covenant of Grace was always, unconditionally, in action regardless of Israel’s failure or success with Sinai.

  • It certainly intersected with Sinai but was not Sinai.



  • Abram was called righteous before Sinai.
  • The promised seed was before Sinai.
  • Israel was redeemed and delivered from Egypt before Sinai.
  • Rahab was redeemed – she was not part of Sinai.
  • Achan was condemned to die for disobedience, but this does not necessarily mean he wasn’t a member of the Covenant of Grace.
    • One could fail at Sinai and be counted as righteous.


Finally, the very fact that Israel was God’s elect was an act of Grace.

  • Deuteronomy 10:15 (ESV) — 15 Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.
  • Deuteronomy 14:2 (ESV) — 2 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.





Joshua 23:12–13 (ESV) — 12 For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, 13 know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.

Joshua 23:15–16 (ESV) — 15 But just as all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the Lord your God has given you, 16 if you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.”


What will become of Israel if they are unfaithful?



Joshua doesn’t hesitate to point out the consequences of unfaithfulness.

  • God will no longer drive out” the Canaanites (vs. 12)
  • The Canaanites will become “a snare and a trap” (vs. 13)
  • They will become “a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes” (vs. 13)
  • Ultimately, at the hands of the Canaanites, Israel will “perish from off” the Promised Land (vs. 13)
  • God will “bring upon you all the evil things” (vs. 15)
  • God will destroy you “from off this good land” (vs. 15)
  • The “anger of the Lord will be kindled against you” (vs. 16)
  • You “shall perish quickly from off the good land” (vs. 16)


If Israel decides to “cling to the remnant of these nations” (vs. 12) they will be destroyed.

  • Like the Canaanites themselves, they will be devoted to destruction.
  • God’s wrath and holiness are not ethnically or religiously based.



The clinging to the Canaanites contrasts starkly with Joshua’s exhortation to cling to God.

  • To the Western tribes – “you shall cling to the Lord your God” (vs. 8)
  • To the Eastern tribes – “cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (22:5)


We saw in Joshua 22 that “cling” carried with it the idea of being covenant faithful.

  • The Greek translation in the LXX used a word for “cling” that carried with it sexual implications.
  • Israel is to metaphorically cling to God the way a man and woman become one.
  • This is a profoundly intimate faithfulness.
  • An intimate faithfulness that finds fulfillment in our Union with Christ!


So to marry the Canaanites and worship their Gods was a deeply offensive form of spiritual adultery.

  • The Israelites were to sanctify themselves and remain faithful to Yahweh – or else.



The threat of spiritual adultery is very real because, “of the remnant of these nations remaining among you” (vs. 12).


David Howard frames the problem as follows:

Joshua speaks both about a people that the “Israelites did not drive out and of land that yet remained to be conquered (see 13:2–6, 13; 15:63; 16:10; 17:11–12; 19:47). Such texts lay the foundation for the Book of Judges. The Israelites did not fulfill their mandate in its entirety, so the seeds of their corruption were in place from the beginning in the form of peoples and nations who remained living among them” – David Howard.


This is one more reason why the “rest” they obtained was fleeting – to be ultimately fulfilled in Christ.

  • God gave them the Promised Land and rest, and the Israelites perhaps rested too easy.
  • They didn’t finish the job.
  • They didn’t “finish the race” to use Paul’s words.


Maybe they figured that “it is in the Lord’s hands”.

  • But sanctification was, and is now, a work of God and of the elect.
  • It is not a one-way street.
  • Sadly, they fought to take the Promised Land.
  • But, they didn’t fight to keep the rest!


The Unraveling:

In Judges, Judah rose up and had some success in driving out the Canaanites (1:1-26).

  • But ultimately, Israel failed.
  • Judges 1:27-36 is a devastating list of Israelite failure, tribe by tribe, to separate from the Canaanites.
  • And as Joshua warned, everything became unraveled.


Judges 2:11–15 (ESV) — 11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.



Do Joshua’s words to the Israelites about the Canaanites create a principal for Christian living?

  • Are we to sanctify ourselves by separating from those around us?